« PreviousContinue »
still the executive arm of the government did not move. In 1817 and 1818 the question of South American independence was continually before the cabinet for discussion. President Monroe seemed strongly inclined toward recognition, but in this he was opposed by Adams and Calhoun, who were unwilling to act in the matter without some understanding with England, and if possible with France. Our relations with Spain in regard to the Indian troubles in Florida were in a very strained condition and any action taken at that time in recognition of South America would have involved us in war with Spain and almost inevitably with other European powers. The President, therefore, as a matter of expediency postponed the action which his sympathy prompted, and, in his annual message of November 16, 1818, expressed his satisfaction at the course the government had hitherto pursued and his intention of adhering to it for the time being. Under the President's direction, however, efforts were made to secure the coöperation of Great Britain and France in promoting the independence of South America.1o
In 1819 an amicable adjustment of our differences with Spain seemed to have been reached by the negotiation of a treaty providing for the cession of the Floridas to the United States and the settlement of long-standing claims of American citizens against Spain. An unforeseen difficulty arose, however, which proved embarrassing to the administration. The Spanish monarch very shrewdly delayed ratifying the treaty for two years and thus practically tied the
... Messages and Papers of the Presidents," Vol. II. p. 44. Adams's Diary," September. 1817, to December, 1818. Despatches of Castlereagh," Vol. XI, pp. 404 and 458.
hands of the administration during that time as far as the South American question was concerned.
In spite of the awkward position in which the administration found itself, Clay, who was opposed to the treaty on account of its unwarranted surrender of our claims to Texas, continued to plead the cause of South America. Early in the year, 1821, a declaration of interest in the South American struggle, introduced by him, was carried by an overwhelming majority (134 to 12), but the administration held back another year until the de facto independence of the colonies no longer admitted of reasonable doubt. Meanwhile the Florida treaty had been ratified. On March 8, 1822, President Monroe, in a special message to Congress, expressed the opinion that the time had come for recognition and asked for the appropriations necessary for carrying it into effect. The President's recommendation was received with approval, and in due course the sum of $100,000 was appropriated for "such missions to the independent nations on the American continent as the President of the United States may deem proper." In accordance with this act Mr. R. C. Anderson of Kentucky was appointed minister to Colombia, Mr. C. A. Rodney of New Jersey to the Argentine Republic, and Mr. H. Allen of Vermont to Chile, in 1824, and Mr. Joel R. Poinsett of South Carolina to Mexico in 1826.
While the United States government was concerning itself with the political interests of the Spanish provinces, Great Britain was quietly reaping all the commercial advantages to be derived from the situation and was apparently well satisfied to let things. follow the drift they had taken. By the destruction
of the combined fleets of France and Spain at Trafalgar, in 1805, Nelson had won for Great Britain undisputed control of the Atlantic and laid open the route to South America. Ever since the assiento of 1713 had placed the slave trade in her hands, Great Britain had realized the possibilities of South American commerce, and the intercourse, which had been kept up with that country after the termination of the slave monopoly by smugglers, now that the danger was removed, became more regular and profitable. During the changes of ministry that followed the death of Pitt, the policy of England in regard to South America was weak and vacillating. We have already called attention to the political indecision that marked the attack upon the provinces of the Plate. With Napoleon's invasion of Spain and the national uprising it occasioned, British policy became once more intelligible. It was wisely deemed of more importance to spare the colonies and to win Spain over to the European alliance against Napoleon, than to take her colonies at the cost of driving her permanently into the arms of France. Meanwhile British commerce with the South American states was steadily growing and that too with the connivance of Spain.
At the close of the Napoleonic wars, Spain, fearing that England, through her desire to keep this trade, would secretly furnish aid to the colonies in their struggle for independence, proposed to the British government to bind itself to a strict neutrality. This England agreed to, and when the treaty was signed, there was, according to Canning, "a distinct understanding with Spain that our commercial intercourse with the colonies was not to be deemed a breach of
Notwithstanding this tacit compact, British commerce suffered greatly at the hands of Spanish privateers and even Spanish war vessels. Numbers of British merchantmen were captured by Spanish ships, carried into the few ports left to Spain on the Main, and condemned as prizes for trading with the insurgent colonies. Thus at the time of the acknowledgment of South American independence by the United States, a long list of grievances had accumulated in the hands of the British ambassador at Madrid, and in spite of urgent and repeated remonstrances, remained unredressed.
Canning was deterred from making final demands upon the government of Madrid by the consideration that he did not wish to hamper the constitutional government of Spain, which had come into being by the revolution of March, 1820, and against which the other powers of Europe were preparing to act. The condition of affairs on the Spanish Main was, however, critical and demanded instant redress. He decided, therefore, to take matters into his own hands without harassing the government of Spain, and to dispatch a squadron to the West Indies to make reprisals. In a memorandum to the cabinet on this subject, November 15, 1822, in which he outlines his policy, he commends the course of the United States in recognizing the de facto independence of the colonies, claiming a right to trade with them and avenging the attempted interruption of that right by making reprisals, as a more straightforward and intelligible course than that of Great Britain, forbearing for the sake of Spain to recognize the colonies, trading with them in faith of
Stapleton, Political Life of Canning," Vol. II, p. 10.
the connivance of Spain and suffering depredations without taking redress. It was not necessary, he thought, to declare war against Spain, for "she has perhaps as little direct and available power over the colonies which she nominally retains as she has over those which have thrown off her yoke. Let us apply, therefore, a local remedy to a local grievance, and make the ships and harbors of Cuba, Porto Rico, and Porto Cabello answerable for the injuries which have been inflicted by those ships, and the perpetrators of which have found shelter in those harbors." In conclusion, he says that the tacit compact, which subsisted for years, by which Spain was to forbear from interrupting British trade with the South American colonies having been renounced by Spain, and the old colonial system having been revived in as full vigor as if she had still a practical hold over her colonies and a navy to enforce her pretensions, "no man will say that under such circumstances our recognition of those states can be indefinitely postponed." 12
While Great Britain was thus considering the expediency of following the example of the United States in the recognition of Spain's revolted colonies, the powers of central Europe had taken upon them the task of solving the difficulties of that unfortunate country both at home and in America. The restored rule of the Bourbons in Spain had been far from satisfactory to the great mass of the people. In March, 1820, the army which Ferdinand had assembled at Cadiz to be sent against the rebellious colonies, suddenly turned against the government, refused to embark, and demanded the restoration of the constitution
* Stapleton, " Official Correspondence of Canning," Vol. I, p. 48 ff.